Low-code is on the rise: Should developers start to worry?

Analyst predicts the fastest-growing category of low-code will be in citizen automation and development platforms.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
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Tech analyst Gartner estimates that spending on low-code development technologies will grow 19.6% year on year to $26.9 billion in 2023. It also sees the even lower-code "citizen developer" category growing faster than the rest of the low-code market.

Gartner sees organizations using low-code technologies -- which require less developer skill and knowledge of programming languages -- being used to speed up application delivery and build customized automation workflows.

The analyst expects strong growth across the broad spectrum of low-code technologies, with the largest category being low-code application platforms (LCAP). It forecasts LCAP market revenues to grow 25% in 2023 to $9.9 billion. 

Also: Low-code is not a cure for overworked IT departments just yet

Among Gartner's list of LCAP vendors are OutSystems, Appian, Microsoft Power Platform, Salesforce Platform, Oracle Express, Mendix, Soho, Pega, ServiceNow, and others.       

Gartner's other categories are: business process automation (BPA), multi-experience development platforms (MDXP), robotic process automation (RPA), integration platform as a service (iPaaS), citizen automation and development platforms (CADP), and other low-code development (LCD) technologies. 

"Equipping both professional IT developers and non-IT personas -- business technologists -- with diverse low-code tools enables organizations to reach the level of digital competency and speed of delivery required for the modern agile environment," said Varsha Mehta, senior market research specialist at Gartner.   

Gartner reckons that 80% of people using low-code development tools won't be within formal IT departments by 2026. That's up from 60% in 2021.

The CADP category for 'citizen developers' -- i.e. not professional developers -- will generate an estimated $732 million in 2022, but it's the fastest growing are and is projected to grow 30.2% in 2023 to reach $953 million. Use cases include automating workflows, building web-based forms, bridging data and content across multiple software-as-a-service applications, and creating reports and data visualizations, according to Gartner. 

The analyst sees low-code as among the mix of hyperautomation-enabling software technologies, which it forecasts will reach $720 billion in 2023. 

Also: Low-code and no-code are making developers' jobs better in two ways

Low-code development technologies offer organizations the ability to compose modular components and packaged business capabilities (PBCs) to create adaptive custom applications.

Gartner notes that it defines "no-code" application platforms as an LCAP that only require text entry for formulae or simple expressions. It includes no-code platforms in LCAP. However, it notes "no-code" isn't suitable for citizen development because many complex tooling configuration tasks are no-code but still require specialist skills. 

Jon Collins, a VP of research at analyst GigaOm, recently told ZDNET that low-code technology doesn't entirely cut out the need for full developers. The spectrum of low-code ranges from simple drag-and-drop interfaces on various tools to complex technical platforms with a low-code way of working. 

"Low code can only do so much to hide the complexity beneath, which makes it great for simpler environments, for integrating multiple sources, or for getting going with a new application, but sooner or later you're going to need the deeper engineering skills," he said. 

So, is this really the end for developers? Unlikely: a recent survey by software firm Capterra found that IT professionals are the main users of low-code/no-code platforms, even though they're often positioned as a tool for citizen developers

Another survey by low-code platform vendor OutSystems found that the majority of low-code users also use traditional coding languages. Some 65% of low-code users reported using at least one traditional language, such as PHP, JavaScript, Python, HTML/CSS, and C/C#/C++. The firm argued that low-code has transformed developers roles in enterprises to teachers and facilitators for potential citizen developers.

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